Mental illness is on the rise. Oftentimes, we aren't born with these disorders, but rather, they develop as the result of poor diet and lifestyle. And while that's a sad state of affairs, it's also a good sign- it means that there are things within your power that can help.
Wondering which foods can help support mental health, balance neurotransmitters, and get you back on track?
In this blog post, we highlight some of the most effective foods you can consume to really give your brain a fighting chance. You don't need to have an active diagnosis to eat these foods; consider them prophylactic in avoiding negative outcomes.
We recommend you try to consume these foods with fair regularity, as often as weekly in many cases.
Without further ado, be sure to pick these items up the next time you shop for groceries.
Fatty Cold Water Fish
Are all fish created equal? Turns out, the answer is no. Fatty cold-water fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential fatty acids that help support both brain and mental health. Fish that you find in warm streams or rivers do not have this adaptation of fat that fish in cold waters need.
Omega-3s have been found to boost the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that can help regulate mood. This can lead to better concentration, improved memory, and enhanced cognitive abilities.
Additionally, research suggests that omega-3s may help protect against age-related brain decline and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. These fatty acids also play a role in reducing inflammation levels throughout the entire body, which contributes to overall health. There is even evidence suggesting that omega-3s can increase levels of “good” cholesterol in the blood, leading to improved cardiovascular health.
Therefore, adding more fatty cold water fish to your diet can be beneficial for your brain, mental health, and overall well-being. By increasing your intake of Omega-3s through regular consumption of these fish, or even supplementation, you could experience a lasting improvement in how you feel mentally and emotionally on a daily basis.
Dark Leafy Veggies
Dark green leafy vegetables are an excellent source of nutrients that are beneficial for brain and mental health. These veggies contain high levels of vitamins B6, B12, vitamin E, folate, magnesium, and iron.
Vitamin B6 can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Vitamin B12 helps to protect nerve cells from damage and is important for a healthy functioning immune system. Vitamin E has been linked to better cognitive performance due to its antioxidant properties.
Folate helps produce serotonin and dopamine, which can aid in concentration and memory formation.
Magnesium helps regulate neurotransmitters in the brain, leading to better mood regulation through improved sleep quality. Finally, iron plays a role in developing new nerve cells and cognitive abilities as well as fighting off fatigue, which can be disruptive to both physical and mental processes. By incorporating dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, or collards into your diet regularly you will get all these necessary nutrients that can support both brain health and mental well-being as seen from the impressive list of benefits mentioned above.
Berries are packed with powerful compounds and nutrients that can be beneficial for mental health. Anthocyanins, which give berries their deep colors, have antioxidant properties that can help protect against cell damage associated with aging.
This can lead to improved brain function as well as better mood regulation. Studies suggest that blueberries may even help reverse some of the cognitive decline that naturally occurs with age. Berries are also a source of vitamin C, which has been found to reduce stress levels and improve focus.
Additionally, berries contain important minerals like magnesium and iron which can help support healthy brain development. Lastly, berries contain flavonoids which have been linked to improved mood stability and reduced anxiety symptoms.
Wondering which berries are best? All are beneficial, but blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and cranberries are the leaders of the pack.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that make them ideal for supporting brain health.
Nuts and seeds are also an excellent source of zinc which helps protect neurons against oxidative stress and assist with DNA replication.
Furthermore, certain nuts like walnuts are a great source of Copper- a critical micronutrient that helps build new blood vessels within the brain and maintains healthy nerve cells. Additionally, nuts and seeds are also good sources of vitamin E, magnesium, and selenium which all contribute to improved mental clarity.
But it doesn't end there. Not only are nuts and seeds a great source of essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants; they also contain beneficial fats. The fats found in nuts and seeds have been found to help improve memory and focus as well as reduce inflammation which can lead to improved brain health.
Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the most important fats when it comes to brain health. These essential fatty acids help form nerve cells, protect neurons from damage, and improve communication between neurotransmitters. Then there are monounsaturated fats which can help to reduce cholesterol levels leading to improved blood flow throughout the body including the brain.
Lastly, they provide high levels of protein to keep your brain fueled while you go about your day. Quite a large list packed into such a small container.
Avocado is an excellent food for the brain. Rich in nutrients, avocados are a great source of healthy monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, which have been found to help reduce inflammation and improve cognitive function.
Additionally, they contain vitamins A, B, C, and E along with minerals such as potassium, copper, zinc, and magnesium which are important for the health of your brain. Avocados also provide essential antioxidants that can help protect your brain from oxidative damage and support better cognition. With all these benefits in mind, it's easy to see why adding avocados to your diet on a regular basis is a no-brainer (pun intended).
Whole eggs are a great way to improve your brain health. Packed with vitamins and minerals like B-12, folate, selenium, choline, and vitamin A; they provide an array of essential nutrients that can help boost cognitive performance.
Choline found in eggs is a vital nutrient for the development of the brain and its function; while Vitamins A and B are great for reducing inflammation which can lead to improved mental well-being. Additionally, whole eggs contain omega-3 fatty acids which have been found to help protect against oxidative stress and improve memory formation.
Furthermore, the protein found in whole eggs helps build neurons in the brain which can contribute to better concentration and sharper thinking abilities.
Then there's the presence of the amino acid Tryptophan, necessary for the synthesis of serotonin, a hormone responsible for regulating mood. All these benefits make eggs an excellent choice for keeping your brain healthy and functioning at its best.
You always knew olive oil was good but did you know that it’s great for your mental health too? Packed with essential polyphenols, monounsaturated fats, and antioxidants; olive oil can be an important addition to any diet designed to improve mental function.
The polyphenols found in olive oil help protect against oxidative damage which can lead to reduced cognitive abilities, while the monounsaturated fats help to reduce inflammation in the brain, thus improving overall mental health. Additionally, olive oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids which can improve communication between neurotransmitters and help with memory formation.
Neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine are also essential for good mental health, and the fats found in olive oil can help to regulate them. All these benefits on your mental well-being should make it easy to see another reason why olive oil is regarded as one of the healthiest oils on the planet.
If you want to live to a ripe old age, and still have the mental faculties to thrive, then green tea should be an essential part of your diet. Green tea is packed with antioxidants and polyphenols that can help protect against oxidative damage which can lead to improved cognitive function, memory formation, and reduced inflammation in the brain. Additionally, green tea contains l-theanine, an amino acid that helps reduce stress levels and promote relaxation.
Green tea is even heralded as the secret to longevity in the Orient, and with all the mental health benefits it provides, it’s easy to see why. Opt for loose-leaf tea over teabags to get the fullest benefit of its antioxidants. Add green tea to your diet, and you will be on your way to better mental health.
The guiltiest indulgence on your way to improved brain function and mental balance, dark chocolate is a great addition to any diet designed to improve mental health. Dark chocolate contains flavonoids such as epicatechin and antioxidants that can help protect against oxidative damage, reduce inflammation in the brain, and promote better cognition. Additionally, dark chocolate contains tryptophan which helps regulate moods by creating feel-good hormones such as serotonin, dopamine, and other endorphins.
Finally, dark chocolate is rich in magnesium which helps reduce stress and promote relaxation, a key to improving mental well-being. Sleep is an extremely important component of maintaining mental health- and something you should look into if you believe you are lacking in that department.
Try a safe, non-habit-forming sleep aide such as DREAMZZZ to help get you back on track before opting for prescription-strength sedatives. You might just do yourself a major favor.
So it’s clear that you can enjoy the silky smoothness of dark chocolate without ruining your diet or compromising your mental health in the process. Just make sure to get quality dark chocolate with a high cocoa content for the best results.
If you're a fan of curries, then you're in luck. This yellow spice has been used for centuries in traditional Ayurvedic medicine as a tool for improving mental health. Turmeric is rich in curcumin, the active ingredient that possesses powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
This helps to reduce inflammation in the brain, which can improve memory formation and cognitive abilities. Additionally, turmeric can help protect your neurons from oxidative damage and improve communication between neurotransmitters.
Curcumin is also said to increase levels of serotonin and dopamine, two important hormones for mental well-being. The best way to get the full benefit of turmeric is by taking a daily supplement or adding it to your cooking routine. Adding this yellow spice to your diet could be the key to improved mental health.
What's not to love about garlic? (well, except for the garlic breath of course!)
This pungent herb not only adds flavor to your food but it is also packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents that can help you on the way to improved mental health.
Garlic contains allicin, an important compound that helps reduce inflammation in the brain which improves cognitive function and memory formation. Additionally, garlic has been known to increase dopamine levels which can lead to lower levels of stress, better sleep patterns, and improved moods.
Then there's the improved blood flow from garlic which helps deliver oxygen and nutrients to the brain more efficiently. So next time you're prepping meals, don't skimp on the garlic!
Yogurt & Kefir
The connection between your mind and gut is irrefutable. For this reason, it's important to keep your gut healthy and happy for improved mental well-being. One of the best ways to do this is by adding probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt and kefir to your diet.
These fermented dairy products contain beneficial bacteria that can help regulate digestion, improve nutrient absorption in the gut, reduce inflammation and improve cognitive function. Furthermore, regular consumption of yogurt and kefir can help keep your gut microbiome healthy which leads to better moods and lower levels of stress.
The vagus nerve, which is the connection between the gut and brain, is particularly sensitive to probiotics which is why it's so important to add these foods to your diet.
Overstimulation of this nerve is associated with anxiety and depression, helping you understand the "nervous gut" you might sometimes experience before a big event.
We all know that carrots and peppers are good for our eyesight, but did you know bell peppers can support mental health too? This brightly colored veggie is full of vitamin B6 and folic acid which helps to regulate homocysteine levels in the brain.
High levels of this amino acid can interfere with neurotransmitter production, leading to increased anxiety, and has even been implicated as being neurotoxic to the brain.
It also appears to increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease development. Thankfully though, bell peppers can help to keep homocysteine levels in check and may even increase serotonin production. So if you want to boost your mood, don't forget to add some bell peppers to your plate!
Under many circumstances, deteriorating brain health can be remedied with deliberate effort. This means the consumption of foods that contribute to neurochemical balance and a lifestyle that enables the body to rest and restore.
Incorporating these mental health-friendly foods into your diet can be a great way to start improving your overall well-being. So, don't forget to keep these important ingredients in mind when you're planning out your next meal!
Feeling intimidated? If it seems daunting to get some of these foods, start with Field Of Greens, our superfood powder loaded with veggies and fruits. You'll get a head start on your nutrition.
You don't have to give up on delicious flavors while taking care of your mental health. With a few simple tweaks to your dietary routine, you can be well on the way to improved mental health.